Ice Hockey: Caps ace content with mixing up lines

The Hull defense tightens up on the attack from Capitals Jordan Steel and Rene Jarolin
The Hull defense tightens up on the attack from Capitals Jordan Steel and Rene Jarolin
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On match nights, fans of Edinburgh Capitals will still be able to purchase piping-hot stovies from the cafe at Murrayfield ice rink but, for now, ‘stovies’ on the ice are off the menu.

Last weekend, as Caps enjoyed back-to-back victories over Cardiff and Hull Stingrays, Capitals’ home-bred third 
forward unit of Jordan Steel, Marc Fowley and Joel Gautschi – affectionately nicknamed by fans as the “stovie line” – was split up by player-coach 
Richard Hartmann in order to accommodate the club’s imported stars.

Steel played on the team’s top line against Hull alongside 
Slovakian sharpshooter Rene Jarolin and Canadian Curtis Leinweber. Ahead of tomorrow’s clash away to Belfast Giants and Sunday’s home encounter with Sheffield Steelers (face-off 6pm), Steel said: “It was something a wee bit different. I’m used to playing with Fowley and Joel which I really enjoy, but it’s great to get a chance to be on a line with players like Leinweber and Rene, they’re top class.

“When it was just us British boys in the third line, perhaps we were a bit top-heavy, but now the talent is spread throughout the team, we can confidently roll three lines, and everyone stays fresh. Hopefully by the time the third period comes around we’ll be in a position to nick games that maybe we would have lost before.”

Caps will be without the 
influential Hartmann, who has fallen short in his race to recover from a back injury, and Steel has been told he can expect to continue in his role deputising for the experienced Slovakian. Tomorrow’s clash promises to be a tough one as Giants are one of only two Elite League teams Edinburgh have failed to beat this season.

Steel added: “Too often in the past we’ve gone to places like Belfast with only 12 skaters and you can only live with them for the first 20 minutes or so, and then you’re done. Having almost a full squad will make a massive difference, but getting a result against the likes of Belfast or Sheffield is going to be really difficult because they’re both such good teams.”

Of the other “stovies”, Gautschi can expect to continue alongside new line-mates Jade Portwood and Marcis Zembergs, but Fowley, who has only now recovered from a back injury that has kept him out for the last two weeks, admits he faces a battle to get back in the team after versatile Neil Hay moved from this season’s more accustomed defensive role to partner club captain Martin Cingel and Peter Holecko. Fowley said: “After two good results last weekend, I think we’ll keep things the same, so it’s up to me to work hard in training and hopefully get back in the team.”

Despite some success over the league’s more fancied teams, including away wins in Sheffield and against league leaders Nottingham Panthers, who hold a two-point advantage over tomorrow’s opponents Belfast, Edinburgh find themselves in ninth place, two points outside a play-off spot. Fowley admits inconsistency against teams around them in the bottom half of the table has put pressure on the Caps to pick up points every week as the league season 
enters its final stretch.

He said: “Obviously it would have really helped if we’d won more games against the teams who, along with us, are competing for that last play-off spot, so there is pressure on us to take points off the bigger teams.

“We’ve done that on more than one occasion this season, though. It’s going to be tough, but success for us this weekend is not out of the question.”